Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Peninsula Music Festival opens impressively


PHOTO: Victor Yampolsky leads the Peninsula Music Festival Orchestra in a concert from a previous season. Peninsula Music Festival photo

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – In a word, Tuesday night’s opening concert of the Peninsula Music Festival’s 62nd season was invigorating.

Never mind the inane chat of the women in the row behind me – S. Everybody else came to listen intently to an orchestra that is in a league of its own in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The Peninsula Music Festival puts on nine different concerts in three weeks – probably an impossible task for other orchestras in the region. The rigors of preparation, rehearsal and performance demand discipline, and the person at the center of it all, music director and conductor Victor Yampolsky, seems to enjoy it. Relish in it.

Victor Yampolsky conducts from memory. No. score. You forget what’s on your grocery list that you left at home. Victor Yampolsky reminds sixtysomething players what they’re supposed to do when and how without thumbing through pages of a score on a music stand. Maybe he doesn’t remember what’s on his grocery list, but he sure knows the supremely intricate music of composers the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms, whose work was played Tuesday at a near-filled Door Community Auditorium.

The performance was spot on.

Beethoven was represented in the “Egmont Overture” and “Symphony No. 4.” Before starting the orchestra each time, Victor Yampolsky paused and looked down as he spread his feet. And then off he’d go, wherever Beethoven took everybody from moment to moment – through melancholy, agitation, serenity, excitement and even playfulness. At times, Victor Yampolsky enacted how a section of the orchestra was to play – creating pictures on a podium.

Brahms was represented with his “Violin Concerto.” Guest artist Vadim Guzman became the picture maker, while Victor Yampolsky finessed the orchestra around him. When Vadim Guzman was not playing, the moods of the score could be read on his face, from sentimental to excited. When playing, Vadim Guzman propelled notes that floated or ran helter skelter, depending on the passages. Dressed in all black, including a shirt that was buttoned to the top and not tucked in, Vadim Guzman cut a commanding figure. He owned the piece on this night, and he earned a standing ovation, “bravos” and two call backs at the end. Most impressive was his five-minute solo in the first movement – a flurry of intense musical heat. In subsequent movements, Vadim Guzman also embraced the sweet side of Brahms, master of the lullaby.

The evening opened with festival executive director Sharon Grutzmacher and Victor Yampolsky talking about the success of the festival. Sixty-two seasons is something. Helping get to the 62 were the 29 seasons with Victor Yampolsky at the helm. He mentioned the hall, the programming and the board and how success “required the constant growth of the orchestra.” It is a formidable orchestra that’s made up of players from widespread spots in the United States and beyond. Its makeup says something about the seriousness of the Peninsula Music Festival, which is why the players and their home cities are listed below.

ORCHESTRA: First violins: Igor Yuzefovich, Hong Kong, China; Amy Sims, Boston, Mass.; Paul Zafer, Wilmette, Ill.; Jennifer Startt, Milwaukee, Wis.; Jessica Hung, Dayton, Ohio; Teresa Fream, Glenwood, Ill.; Aleksandr Zhuk, Miami Beach, Fla.; Kurt Johnson, Houston, Texas; Jen Chang, Fort Worth, Texas; Margot Schwartz, Milwaukee, Wis.; Zhan Shu, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Rika Seko, Evanston, Ill. Second violins: Kirstin Greenlaw, Cincinnati, Ohio; Marilyn McDonald, Oberlin, Ohio; Scott Shoemaker, Omaha, Neb.; Lori Everson, Boston, Mass.; Carol Yampolsky, Evanston, Ill.; Betty Lewis, Wilmette, Ill.; Karen Nelson, Park Ridge, Ill.; Betsy Cline, Northfield, Ill.; Christine Hauptly Annin, Milwaukee, Wis.; Joanna Grosshans, Milwaukee, Wis. Violas: Joan DerHovsepian, Houston, Texas; Susanne LaFevre, Houston, Texas; Thomas Rex Kluge, Omaha, Neb.; Judith Ablon, Nashville, Tenn.; Adam Neeley, Long Beach, Calif; Jonas Benson, Evanston, Ill.; Amy Mason, Raleigh, N.C. Cellos: Paul V. Ledwon, Omaha, Neb.; Daniel Cline, Little Rock, Ark.; Freya Oberle Samuels, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Anna Burden, Montreal, Canada; Richard Yeo, Lake Forest, Ill.; Linda Minke, Jacksonville, Fla.; Jeffrey Lastrapes, Lubbock, Texas. Basses: J.M. Pellegrino, Columbus, Ohio; C.M. Roberts, Cincinnati, Ohio; E.T. Gronfor, Houston, Texas; V.P. Bilanchone, Jacksonville, Fla. Flutes: Susanna Self, Lubbock, Texas; Merrilee Elliott, Lexington, Ky.; Melissa Ngan Snoza, Algonquin, Ill.; Colleen Matheu Johnson, Houston, Texas. Oboes: Eric Olson, Jacksonville, Fla.; Caroline Park, New York, N.Y.; Rogene Russell, Dallas, Texas; Leanna Booze, Nashville, Tenn. Clarinets: Carmelo Galante, Omaha, Neb.; David Bell, Baileys Harbor, Wis.; Tim Zavadil, Minneapolis, Minn.; Leslie Grimm, Chicago, Ill. Saxophone: Debra Richtmeyer, Champaign, Ill.; Bassoons: Philip Pandolfi, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Michael Kroth, East Lansing, Mich.; Vincent Karamanov, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Patricia Holland, Plover, Wis. Horns: Richard Britsch, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Erich Peterson, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Matthew Annin, Milwaukee, Wis.; David G. Elliott, Lexington, Ky.; Bruce Atwell, Oshkosh, Wis.; Corbin Wagner, East Lansing, Mich. Trumpets: Terry Everson, Boston, Mass.; Chris Hasselbring, Evanston, Ill.; Bruce Briney, Macomb, Ill.; Daniel Grantham, Cincinnati, Ohio. Trombones: Paul Bellino, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Bradley L. Ward, East Windsor, New Jersey; David Lussier, Brown Deer, Wis.; Tuba: Charles Schuchat, Chicago, Ill.; Timpani: William G. Wiggins, Nashville, Tenn. Percussion: Douglas Howard, Dallas, Texas; Christopher Norton, Nashville, Tenn.; Mark Libby, Birmingham, Ala.; Paul Ristau, Appleton, Wis.; Chia-Hsuan Lin, Evanston, Ill. Harp: Marcia Emilia LaBella, Brookfield, Ill. Keyboard: Judith Jackson, Sister Bay, Wis. Personnel manager: David G. Elliott, Lexington, Ky. Librarian: Sarah Bowman Peterson, Grand Rapids, Mich. Music director and conductor: Victor Yampolsky, Evanston, Ill.

NEXT CONCERTS: Aug. 7, “Rachmaninoff I;” Aug. 9, “Wine, Women and Song;” Aug. 12, “Classics Old and New;” Aug. 14, “Rachmaninoff II;” Aug. 16, “Don Giovanni Act I – Highlights;” Aug. 19, “Symphonic Brilliance;” Aug. 21, “Rachmaninoff III;” Aug. 23, “Finale.” Info: www.musicfestival.com.

THE VENUE: The 725-seat Door Community Auditorium features wood elements (for acoustics) surrounding its focal 60 by 24-foot proscenium (straight-front) stage. The auditorium opened in 1991. It serves the Gibraltar School District and hosts professional performances such as the respected Peninsula Music Festival. In the auditorium design, the architects chose to emphasize open space, exposed steel beams and simplicity of shapes. For orchestra concerts, the stage is lined with wood; panels are squares within larger squares. The roof interior is exposed wood, an acoustical touch. Balcony and box-seat areas are faced with plaster surfaces of a red hue. The hall’s seats are padded with wood backs. The lobby features two murals that represent the spirit of the peninsula, “Door County/The Water” and “Door County/The Land.”

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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